MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL/OPINION

OPINION: PASSPORT PROCESSING AND THE FILIPINO GLOBAL DIASPORA  

Last Thursday, I renewed my passport which was due to expire in October 2014. One of my daughters,
who is handling the renewal of our family visas for the United States, thought that my passport was valid until 2015. However, through sheer serendipity, I came across the photocopies of my passport while filing some files and was rather surprised that it was only good for two more months! My impression on the renewal of passports was that it would be a breeze since the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has now made it convenient for Filipinos in Metro Manila who will either apply for their passports for the first time or have them renewed. Since October 2012, the DFA has put up satellite offices in malls like SM Manila, SM MegaMall, Robinsons Galleria, Ali Mall in Cubao, and Metro Alabang in Muntinlupa. The convenience of passport applications being done in the malls in the past two years is a far cry from those days when you had to go to the DFA office on Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City and later on to the DFA Aseana along Macapagal Avenue where there was no place to park your vehicle except at the restaurants across the main road. Today, there are five DFA satellite offices operating in the Metro Manila area.

However, the waiting and processing time remains the same at about three hours. In short, you lose half a day or four hours just for your passport processing: three hours being inside the DFA satellite office and another hour for travel time. Ms. Karen Amodia, a 27-year woman employed in Laguna Techno Park in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, took a half-day off from work. She arrived at 2:30 PM for her 3:00 PM “appointment” and got finished at 5:45 PM. The waiting time for your “appointment” alone is at least one hour. This means that if you have a 3:00 PM “appointment,” you are instructed by the DFA website to be there 30 minutes early or at 2:30 PM. However, you can only get inside the DFA office for processing after one hour to one hour and a half. This means the 3:00 PM batch that began waiting at 2:30 PM started entering the DFA enclosed office at 3:30 PM up to 4:00 PM. Once inside, the passport processing from Step 1 to Step 3 will take you another 1.5 to 2.0 hours. All told, three hours there at the DFA South at Metro Alabang for your passport application. Amazing that the leadership of DFA until today has not addressed the issue of spending three long hours at their satellite offices. The solution to long processing time ---*READ MORE...

ALSO: Grace Poe and the MRT challenge 

There was a time I liked Senator Grace Poe. I thought she was smart and fair. She didn’t seem like a pushover, or a woman who would fall into the trap of Pinoy macho politics and politicking. She was far from seeming like a trapo with traditional politician moves. And then she took the MRT. Free MRT endorsement ---This is the oldest trick in the politician’s book, isn’t it? I grew up watching politicos having some shellfish to prove there’s no red tide in the sea— never mind that too many had already been poisoned. Recently Food Security and Agriculture Modernization Secretary Kiko Pangilinan appeared on TV with three different kinds of rice in three different rice cookers. He partakes of some NFA rice and says it is now fit for consumption.

Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya took the train to prove to the public that it is safe. Senator Poe took the train too and concludes that there is hope for the MRT: “I believe the MRT is not a hopeless situation. The government just has to step up its effort in the proper maintenance of the trains and the stations.”
Uh, we could’ve told you exactly that Senator Poe, este Citizen Poe, esteRunning-For-2016-Poe. In fact the public has been telling politicians like you and this government exactly what you concluded upon riding the MRT one way, from North Avenue Station to Taft Station, on a trip that was two hours and ten minutes in total (including the time you spent queuing up). There is nothing new or extraordinary about what you discovered, and it’s easy to see that the only thing gained from this experience of yours is . . . some political pretty points.

Because you are the only thing that’s different in that picture of MRT hell that the public paints, Senator Poe, and with you in that picture things actually look up for the horrid MRT service that the public suffers every day. One wonders if you realize that. That as your PR team suggested you take the train, or you thought to take the train and take some photos to prove that you did, that you would be the perfect poster child for MRT commuting, providing the train with the endorsement it needs. “Pleasant” is far from the way the public would describe getting on that train. But Senator Poe’s image on the train is a gift that will keep on giving.*READ MORE...

ALSO: Promised info on the DAP gone with the wind?  

On July 25, 2014, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad promised to give the Senate Committee on Finance a list of impounded funds per government agency pooled for the Disbursement Acceleration Program, and the status of the projects or programs where DAP funds were used. More than a month has elapsed and Abad still has to submit the needed data. He provided in a jiffy data on the pork used by three senators for several years so why is he taking time giving the info on more recent activities? There’s only one possible reason for this– full disclosure will give the lie to the administration’s claim that the DAP had been beneficial to the people. Come to think of it, why isn’t the finance committee chair, Sen. Chiz Escudero breathing hard on Abad to come out with the promised data? Sure, there is a political dictum that “the friend of my friend is my friend” but this shouldn’t stand in the way of an honest-to-goodness inquiry in aid of legislation. Right off the bat, the Senate inquiry on the DAP was already called a “zarzuela” meant to get President BS Aquino and Abad off the hook after the Supreme Court had declared portions of it unconstitutional.

What’s known so far is that P237.7 billion had been impounded from “slow-moving” projects funded by the national budget. The pooled amount was then classified as “savings,” placed under DAP and used by the Aquino administration even for projects not contained in the national budget as well as for projects outside the domain of the executive department. Abad contended that the DAP was a spending reform measure for speeding up public expenditure to catalyze economic growth and benefit the people.  “Because we implemented DAP without pomp and circumstance, most of the public are unaware that some of the services we’ve been delivering were made possible by DAP,” Abad said at the Senate hearing. The public might share the same sentiment if they were informed on what were the “slow-moving projects” that were the source of the DAP and how the ordinary people were benefited. I wonder if the untold story about the DAP would show that the people would have benefited more had the original projects not been suspended or cancelled. The claim of the Aquino administration that it wants projects to move faster rather than keep public funds lying idle is proved false by the fact that of the P237.7 billion impounded from the budget, the proposed projects needed only P167.6 billion, of which only P144 billion was released. I thought the administration doesn’t want funds to stay idle but that’s what has happened to the more than P93 billion that remains of the DAP.* READ MORE...

ALSO: Editorial: Pass AIDS Prevention and Control Law  

VERY serious is the increase of the number of AIDS-stricken OFWs. This calls for the passage of the proposed new AIDS Prevention and Control Law, or Senate Bill 186, which was introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The bill seeks to improve the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support. It also sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality The warning was articulated in a press statement issued on Saturday, August 30, 2014, by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines titled “ Cumulative number of stricken OFWs exceeds 3,000 for the first time.” A total of 379 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)— 334 males and 45 females—were found human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive from January to July this year, the TUCP, said. The 379 represents an increase of 23 percent, or 70 cases, versus the 309 OFWs found HIV-positive over the same seven-month period in 2013, TUCP President and former Senator Ernesto Herrera, who is a Manila Times columnist said. Herrera said 378 of the stricken OFWs acquired the infection through sexual transmission, including 152 cases via male-to-male sexual contact. “There was one case wherein the OFW was an intravenous drug user, and was infected by a tainted needle,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.*READ MORE...

ALSO: A loose, steaming pile of GDP  

When the term of President B.S. Aquino 3rd comes to its long-awaited end, whenever that is, one of the remarkable economic achievements his Administration will legitimately be able to claim is to have rendered GDP growth completely irrelevant as a measure of the country’s economic growth. I’ll admit I was surprised by it yesterday; not by the Q2 growth rate itself, which at 6.4 percent was only slightly higher than my own prediction (which was 6.2 percent), but the fact that the reaction to the news from most quarters was a hearty “So what?” The stock market, for instance, greeted the announcement by promptly dropping nearly 60 points. Outwardly, the economic performance of the second quarter deserves better than a lukewarm response. The 6.4 percent GDP growth broke a string of three straight quarters of declining growth rates. It was significantly higher than Q1’s 5.6 percent (which was by itself a pretty respectable growth rate), and the benchmark on which it was based was the quarter last year in which the bulk of election spending occurred.

There are a couple of reasons why it may fail to excite the business sector and the public, however. First, even though the Q2 figure is perfectly respectable, it is still below expectations. Over the past five or six years, the Philippines has graduated to that segment of emerging economies which are expected to grow rapidly for an extended period of time, something like what China did last decade but on a much smaller scale. The reason for this is that the economy has a considerable amount of “catching up” to do; the overall size of the economy is not that impressive by developed-country standards, so in order to demonstrate real progress, it has to expand at a rapid rate. In that context, growth in the 7 percent range or higher is just considered “normal,” and when the growth rate is below that for a couple of quarters in a row, it is taken as a bad sign. The second reason is that a positive GDP growth rate is incongruent with most consumers’ experience. Part of that can be attributed to the time delay; we are at the end of the second month of the third quarter, considering economic performance of a period that ended two months ago. People make comparisons to their current circumstances, and are inclined to disagree with or disregard ‘high GDP growth” when their understanding of the state of the economy is based more on unattractive indicators of rising commodity prices, shortages of some basic goods, high power costs, stagnant wages, and unemployment.* READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘What are you willing to die for?’  

“What are you willing to die for?” It was a very challenging question that Pope Francis presented to the thousands of young people gathered for the beatification of the 130 martyrs in Korea last week. It is also challenging for all of us who claim to be Catholics and Christians. His message was clear in calling on the youth and people to reject a life of selfish gratification based on gross materialism and living for wealth alone and instead to strive for equality and protect the poor and their human rights. The Pope visited a Catholic home for the elderly and embraced some of them showing compassion and love. In Korea, as in many wealthy nations, there are serious pockets of neglect of the elderly. Although Korea is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, half of the old folk there live in poverty. Instead of cherishing and respecting them all with a life of dignity and sufficiency, many of the senior citizens are marginalized and rejected as people of little value. Many are locked away in retirement homes and some tied to beds and chairs and given tranquilizer drugs that leaves them in a state of semi-conscious stupor that accelerates dementia. New legislation in Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands allows them to be helped to kill themselves by “assisted suicide.” Where will this trend end?

Soon the practice could be for nasty relatives and government caregivers to bully and persuade them to kill themselves and not go on being a financial and medical burden to the rest of us. This is an attitude arising from loveless selfish materialism. The Pope reminded us that the early Catholics of Korea sacrificed themselves for their needy brothers and sisters. “They knew the price of discipleship and were willing to make the great sacrifices,” he said of them. The Pope pointed out that their love and courage and rejection of the strict unbending and unequal social structure of their day is an inspiration for people alive today. Their belief in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching of a Kingdom of love, equality and social justice led to their execution. The rich can’t stand talk of equality.......Like the Korean martyrs we should be ready to give up some comforts of our easy life and defend the abused children and those poor people exploited by the rich one percent that owns 70 percent of the Philippines. We need the spiritual commitment and belief in what is right and good and be ready to put aside selfish desires and greed to help others in great need. This is at the heart of the Pope’s message. When Francis comes to the Philippines I hope he will not be feted and manipulated by glory-seeking rich elites and publicity-seeking politicos. He will, we hope, visit the poor and the victims of abuse and survivors of the greatest typhoon. He will see little reconstruction of homes, schools and public services. Political corruption is still rife and raging wherever there is money to be stolen. His message will be equally challenging for sure and we will do well to heed it and act in solidarity with those in great need wherever they may be. PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE OPINION.


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Passport processing and the Filipino global diaspora


Rick B. Ramos

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 (MANILA TIMES) by RICK RAMOS - Last Thursday, I renewed my passport which was due to expire in October 2014. One of my daughters, who is handling the renewal of our family visas for the United States, thought that my passport was valid until 2015.

However, through sheer serendipity, I came across the photocopies of my passport while filing some files and was rather surprised that it was only good for two more months!

My impression on the renewal of passports was that it would be a breeze since the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has now made it convenient for Filipinos in Metro Manila who will either apply for their passports for the first time or have them renewed. Since October 2012, the DFA has put up satellite offices in malls like SM Manila, SM MegaMall, Robinsons Galleria, Ali Mall in Cubao, and Metro Alabang in Muntinlupa.

The convenience of passport applications being done in the malls in the past two years is a far cry from those days when you had to go to the DFA office on Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City and later on to the DFA Aseana along Macapagal Avenue where there was no place to park your vehicle except at the restaurants across the main road. Today, there are five DFA satellite offices operating in the Metro Manila area.

However, the waiting and processing time remains the same at about three hours. In short, you lose half a day or four hours just for your passport processing: three hours being inside the DFA satellite office and another hour for travel time. Ms. Karen Amodia, a 27-year woman employed in Laguna Techno Park in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, took a half-day off from work. She arrived at 2:30 PM for her 3:00 PM “appointment” and got finished at 5:45 PM.

The waiting time for your “appointment” alone is at least one hour. This means that if you have a 3:00 PM “appointment,” you are instructed by the DFA website to be there 30 minutes early or at 2:30 PM. However, you can only get inside the DFA office for processing after one hour to one hour and a half. This means the 3:00 PM batch that began waiting at 2:30 PM started entering the DFA enclosed office at 3:30 PM up to 4:00 PM.

Once inside, the passport processing from Step 1 to Step 3 will take you another 1.5 to 2.0 hours. All told, three hours there at the DFA South at Metro Alabang for your passport application. Amazing that the leadership of DFA until today has not addressed the issue of spending three long hours at their satellite offices.

The solution to long processing time

* There were almost 1,000 passport applicants last Thursday at the DFA South in Metro Mall Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

So how can the leadership of DFA cut the waiting and processing time of three hours? The answer is quite simple and does not involve “rocket science.” Cut the number of applicants per day and you reduce the processing period. How simple can it get!

For instance, putting in a daily quota of 700 applicants can easily reduce the processing period of three hours to only two hours. So how come the DFA cannot think of doing it? It will be not be a big problem because the other 300 applicants can just be moved to the next day. So the possible delay is only one day at most.

The solution to processing time is actually taken up in a course in Operations Research called “Queuing Theory” because it is a “mathematical study of waiting lines or queues” (Wikipedia).

It’s about computing for the time that it would take to finish a certain task or process. Its application can be from tollbooths to factories (manufacturing) and shops to offices or hospitals, such as in providing service or paying bills.

The early origins of the Queuing Theory began more than a hundred years ago in 1909 when Danish mathematician and engineer Agner Krarup Erlang worked on his models with the Copenhagen telephone exchange. Later on, the interest in its other applications spread after World War II in the late 1940s. Today, its vast applications like in telecommunications traffic are studied in Operations Research, a subject offered in courses in Industrial Engineering or Industrial Management Engineering.

Why the myriad passport applications?

The DFA website says that a maximum of 1,000 applications are accepted in their six offices in Metro Manila.

Then there are the DFA regional offices across the country plus additional DFA satellite offices, such as in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, which was opened three years ago in 2011 due to the many passport applicants from the province who work abroad as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) like the Filipino mariner or seaman.

Easily, there are about 8,000 passport applications per day or about 180,000 per month or at least two million passports issued per annum. Today, there may be 20 million Filipinos with passports, including our compatriots who either are holding dual citizenships or are immigrants to other countries.

The demand for Philippine passports is mainly due to Filipinos who are either working abroad as OFWs or migrating to their progressive adoptive countries. There are also those – like the two women I met yesterday – who applied for their passports not for travel or holidays, but to be ready when the opportunity presents itself either as an OFW or as an immigrant to America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

The official statistics of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show that more Filipinos have left the Philippines as OFWs in the past three years (at 5.0 million) under the Aquino administration.

Just another proof that the impressive economic growth in 2013 hardly means anything in terms of employment generation—the real inclusive growth!

Grace and the MRT challenge August 30, 2014 10:35 pm by KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO


KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

There was a time I liked Senator Grace Poe. I thought she was smart and fair. She didn’t seem like a pushover, or a woman who would fall into the trap of Pinoy macho politics and politicking. She was far from seeming like a trapo with traditional politician moves.

And then she took the MRT.

Free MRT endorsement

This is the oldest trick in the politician’s book, isn’t it?

I grew up watching politicos having some shellfish to prove there’s no red tide in the sea— never mind that too many had already been poisoned. Recently Food Security and Agriculture Modernization Secretary Kiko Pangilinan appeared on TV with three different kinds of rice in three different rice cookers. He partakes of some NFA rice and says it is now fit for consumption.

Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya took the train to prove to the public that it is safe. Senator Poe took the train too and concludes that there is hope for the MRT: “I believe the MRT is not a hopeless situation. The government just has to step up its effort in the proper maintenance of the trains and the stations.”

Uh, we could’ve told you exactly that Senator Poe, este Citizen Poe, esteRunning-For-2016-Poe.

In fact the public has been telling politicians like you and this government exactly what you concluded upon riding the MRT one way, from North Avenue Station to Taft Station, on a trip that was two hours and ten minutes in total (including the time you spent queuing up).

There is nothing new or extraordinary about what you discovered, and it’s easy to see that the only thing gained from this experience of yours is . . . some political pretty points.

Because you are the only thing that’s different in that picture of MRT hell that the public paints, Senator Poe, and with you in that picture things actually look up for the horrid MRT service that the public suffers every day.

One wonders if you realize that. That as your PR team suggested you take the train, or you thought to take the train and take some photos to prove that you did, that you would be the perfect poster child for MRT commuting, providing the train with the endorsement it needs.

“Pleasant” is far from the way the public would describe getting on that train. But Senator Poe’s image on the train is a gift that will keep on giving.

* Once does not mean anything

And then there’s just the fact that spending an hour and a half on the train, and 40 minutes in line to get on it, is far from experiencing what the public goes through every day. Let’s see what it is that Senator Poe did not experience when she fell in line to get on the MRT on Friday, at 8:20 a.m., the height of rush hour, the press spin tells us.

She did not experience the rush hour commute to the MRT station: the long walks, the fighting with or harassment from cab drivers, the tricycle or jeepney ride to the nearest stop. She doesn’t know of how it feels to arrive at the station and find that long line. She does not know of how it feels to have to climb those long flights of stairs to get on the train’s platform, which remind of how badly planned this train was to begin with, and how it did not take the public’s safety and comfort into consideration.

Senator Poe did not experience having to wake up three hours before she needs to be at the office, just so she might make it in time for the bundy clock, and not lose some of the salary she works hard for. She did not experience falling in line for the train with so little sleep, because it took forever to get home the night before – be it on the train, or on any other public transport that traverses EDSA.

Senator Poe did not experience trying to get on the train for an urgent appointment, finding that the wagon reserved for senior citizens, women, and persons with disability full, and being forced to get on that train for everyone. She did not experience the utter fear of getting into a wagon filled mostly with men, and realizing its danger only upon feeling all eyes on you.

She did not experience having to get out of that wagon, and deciding instead to get on a cramped women’s wagon, that one where there is no kindness, just suffocation.

Senator Poe did not experience traveling on the MRT at night, so she might see how badly lit it is and how scary it can become, with no sense of security or safety. She did not experience needing to pee, and finding that the toilets are far from being safe or clean.

She did not experience getting out of the station at night, to be met by an EDSA that is dark and scary and is devoid of any sense of security, too.

Messing with our minds

The idea that Senator Poe—or any politician—can ride the MRT once and feel what it’s like for the public is so false, one knows it’s nothing but a political stunt.

A trapo political stunt, to be exact.

But Pinoy social media is so ready to be enamored by Senator Poe—or so desperate for a semblance of a “new” politician maybe?—that it now thinks her the yardstick against which all other politicians must be measured.

Please lang. Any politician— and I say any one of them—can go on a joyride on the MRT.

Now living with the MRT and public transport, the unsafe roads and streets that bring us from our homes to the train station to our offices, with no air-conditioned car waiting at our destination station to pick us up, is something else. Living with streets where women are harassed by the every-manong, where the choice everyone makes is to be unsafe on a bus, or unsafe on the MRT. Where public transport is a risk that one takes.

THAT is the MRT challenge. Anything less than a month taking the train and doing the commute, to and from work, is nothing but baloney. Senator Poe’s stunt included.

Promised info on the DAP gone with the wind?  August 29, 2014 9:45 pm by EFREN L. DANAO


Efren Danao

On July 25, 2014, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad promised to give the Senate Committee on Finance a list of impounded funds per government agency pooled for the Disbursement Acceleration Program, and the status of the projects or programs where DAP funds were used.

More than a month has elapsed and Abad still has to submit the needed data. He provided in a jiffy data on the pork used by three senators for several years so why is he taking time giving the info on more recent activities? There’s only one possible reason for this– full disclosure will give the lie to the administration’s claim that the DAP had been beneficial to the people.

Come to think of it, why isn’t the finance committee chair, Sen. Chiz Escudero breathing hard on Abad to come out with the promised data?

Sure, there is a political dictum that “the friend of my friend is my friend” but this shouldn’t stand in the way of an honest-to-goodness inquiry in aid of legislation.

Right off the bat, the Senate inquiry on the DAP was already called a “zarzuela” meant to get President BS Aquino and Abad off the hook after the Supreme Court had declared portions of it unconstitutional.

What’s known so far is that P237.7 billion had been impounded from “slow-moving” projects funded by the national budget. The pooled amount was then classified as “savings,” placed under DAP and used by the Aquino administration even for projects not contained in the national budget as well as for projects outside the domain of the executive department.

Abad contended that the DAP was a spending reform measure for speeding up public expenditure to catalyze economic growth and benefit the people.

“Because we implemented DAP without pomp and circumstance, most of the public are unaware that some of the services we’ve been delivering were made possible by DAP,” Abad said at the Senate hearing.

The public might share the same sentiment if they were informed on what were the “slow-moving projects” that were the source of the DAP and how the ordinary people were benefited. I wonder if the untold story about the DAP would show that the people would have benefited more had the original projects not been suspended or cancelled.

The claim of the Aquino administration that it wants projects to move faster rather than keep public funds lying idle is proved false by the fact that of the P237.7 billion impounded from the budget, the proposed projects needed only P167.6 billion, of which only P144 billion was released. I thought the administration doesn’t want funds to stay idle but that’s what has happened to the more than P93 billion that remains of the DAP.

* The men of Malacañang may be slow in informing the people on the nuts and bolts of the DAP but expect them to move with the speed of light in dumping the three impeachment complaints against BS Aquino.

Don’t be fooled by the decision of the House Committee on Justice declaring the complaints sufficient in form.

Expect the committee to throw out the complaints next week “for insufficiency in substance.” Volcanoes will erupt in Malacañang if the committee prolongs the debates on this issue.

I heard Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Justice, say on the 9TV (formerly Solar News TV) program “news:PH” hosted by veteran broadcaster Pia Hontiveros that his being an ally and party mate of the President won’t affect his treatment of the impeachment complaints.

Yeah, just like this alliance didn’t affect his approval in record time of the voluminous impeachment complaint against former Chief Justice Renato Corona!

Incidentally, several points of order were raised at the committee hearing on the impeachment complaints’ sufficiency in form. Veteran parliamentarians know that to be declared out of order is a supreme humiliation to self-respecting lawmakers.

I had never heard parliamentarians like Senators Nene Pimentel, Kit Tatad, Bert Romulo, Tito Sotto and Kiko Pangilinan and Congressmen Ronaldo Zamora, Simeon Datumanong, the late Sonny Escudero, Rodolfo Albano and Manuel “Nonoy” Garcia move to declare any of their colleagues out of order.

Speaking of Rudy Albano of Isabela and Nonoy Garcia of Davao City, I remember that during the Regular Batasan, they used to be sent by Majority Leader Jose Rono to talk with the minority.

The opposition leaders, among them Nene Pimentel, Monching Mitra, Louie Villafuerte and Bono Adaza couldn’t get along with the No. 2 man of the rules committee, Arturo Pacificador of Antique.

However, they found bosom buddies Rudy and Nonoy more reasonable and more diplomatic. No wonder Rudy and Nonoy were warmly welcomed to the new majority in the post-EDSA legislature.

Pass AIDS Prevention and Control Law August 30, 2014 10:59 pm


IMAGE COURTESY OF PINOY99.BLOGSPOT.CA

VERY serious is the increase of the number of AIDS-stricken OFWs.

This calls for the passage of the proposed new AIDS Prevention and Control Law, or Senate Bill 186, which was introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

The bill seeks to improve the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support. It also sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality.

The warning was articulated in a press statement issued on Saturday, August 30, 2014, by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines titled “ Cumulative number of stricken OFWs exceeds 3,000 for the first time.”

A total of 379 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)— 334 males and 45 females—were found human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive from January to July this year, the TUCP, said.

The 379 represents an increase of 23 percent, or 70 cases, versus the 309 OFWs found HIV-positive over the same seven-month period in 2013, TUCP President and former Senator Ernesto Herrera, who is a Manila Times columnist said.

Herrera said 378 of the stricken OFWs acquired the infection through sexual transmission, including 152 cases via male-to-male sexual contact.

“There was one case wherein the OFW was an intravenous drug user, and was infected by a tainted needle,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

* HIV causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. While the disease that destroys the immune system does not have any known cure, the World Health Organization says “huge reductions have been seen in rates of death and suffering when use is made of a potent antiretroviral regimen, particularly in early stages.”

“The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. should see to it that every OFW found HIV-positive is able to avail of cost-free Anti-Retroviral Therapy in accredited treatment hubs,” Herrera urged.

“We are also urging Malacañang to certify the proposed new AIDS Prevention and Control Law, or Senate Bill 186, introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” Herrera added.

The bill seeks to improve the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support. It also sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality.

An aggregate of 3,017 OFWs with the median age of 34 now comprise 15 percent of the 19,915 cases in the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry as of July 31, 2014. The Registry began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984.

According to the Registry, some 98 percent of all HIV-positive OFWs, or 2,951 cases, acquired the virus on account of sexual contact.

Some 81 percent of all HIV-positive OFWs, or 2,456 cases, are males, and 834 of them, or 28 percent, were infected due to male-to-male sexual contact.

HIV is being spread primarily through sexual contact, predominantly male-to-male sex, and secondarily via needle-sharing among injecting drug users or the transfusion of contaminated blood, according to the Philippine National AIDS Council.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is the nation’s largest democratic labor center, with member-federations forming a General Council.

TUCP is affiliated with the Brussels, Belgium-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the global voice of the world’s working people.

A loose, steaming pile of GDP August 29, 2014 9:48 pm by BEN D. KRITZ


Ben D. Kritz

When the term of President B.S. Aquino 3rd comes to its long-awaited end, whenever that is, one of the remarkable economic achievements his Administration will legitimately be able to claim is to have rendered GDP growth completely irrelevant as a measure of the country’s economic growth.

I’ll admit I was surprised by it yesterday; not by the Q2 growth rate itself, which at 6.4 percent was only slightly higher than my own prediction (which was 6.2 percent), but the fact that the reaction to the news from most quarters was a hearty “So what?”

The stock market, for instance, greeted the announcement by promptly dropping nearly 60 points.

Outwardly, the economic performance of the second quarter deserves better than a lukewarm response. The 6.4 percent GDP growth broke a string of three straight quarters of declining growth rates. It was significantly higher than Q1’s 5.6 percent (which was by itself a pretty respectable growth rate), and the benchmark on which it was based was the quarter last year in which the bulk of election spending occurred.

There are a couple of reasons why it may fail to excite the business sector and the public, however. First, even though the Q2 figure is perfectly respectable, it is still below expectations.

Over the past five or six years, the Philippines has graduated to that segment of emerging economies which are expected to grow rapidly for an extended period of time, something like what China did last decade but on a much smaller scale.

The reason for this is that the economy has a considerable amount of “catching up” to do; the overall size of the economy is not that impressive by developed-country standards, so in order to demonstrate real progress, it has to expand at a rapid rate. In that context, growth in the 7 percent range or higher is just considered “normal,” and when the growth rate is below that for a couple of quarters in a row, it is taken as a bad sign.

The second reason is that a positive GDP growth rate is incongruent with most consumers’ experience. Part of that can be attributed to the time delay; we are at the end of the second month of the third quarter, considering economic performance of a period that ended two months ago. People make comparisons to their current circumstances, and are inclined to disagree with or disregard ‘high GDP growth” when their understanding of the state of the economy is based more on unattractive indicators of rising commodity prices, shortages of some basic goods, high power costs, stagnant wages, and unemployment.

* Even though the perceptions are largely mistaken – the published GDP rate compensates for inflation, and the GDP figure does not apply to things like wages and unemployment anyway – they cannot be discounted, especially when negative sentiment is being aggravated by the trust deficit this particular administration has created.

For example, prior to the release of the Q2 figures on Thursday, the NEDA and the Department of Finance repeatedly offered public assurances that Q2’s growth rate would be much higher than Q1’s “disappointing” 5.6 percent – the DOF even specified a Q2 figure of 7 percent – in part because government spending had “increased by 45 percent in June.”

Yet when the Q2 figure was finally released, most every component of the GDP calculation was positive except for government spending, which was flat. In nominal terms, it actually retracted a bit; in current prices, government spending actually advanced 3.2 percent, but that was against an inflation rate of about 4.3 percent for the quarter.

Worse still, in the various commentaries offered by government officials after the GDP release on Thursday, the story emerged that government agencies had not, in fact, actually increased their spending at all, but rather had scaled back their disbursements for ‘personal services’ and ‘maintenance and other operating expenses,’ two categories that usually account for a great deal of spending.

Without that problem, the fact that the GDP growth rate was 6.4 percent instead of 7 percent would have just meant the government forecasters were wrong—an annoying, but forgivable outcome. But telling everyone that government spending had increased, and not just increased but increased by a specific amount (although to be fair, the “45 percent” was offered without context), and then backtracking to admit that, no, that did not, in fact, happen at all makes the government sound worse than wrong; it makes them sound dishonest.

According to what GDP measures, the economy is doing well; there is no getting around that fact. But, as has been pointed out before—just about every time new GDP figures are released, actually —GDP is an incomplete picture of the economy as a whole.

Without denying policymakers their privilege to be pleased that GDP performance continues to be robust, we should remind them that it is only part of the story, one that is going to be completely meaningless if other aspects—prices, wages, income inequality, and capital and job creation—continue to be given short shrift.

‘What are you willing to die for?’  August 30, 2014 10:55 pm by FR. SHAY CULLEN, SSC


Fr. Shay Cullen --Father Shay Cullen (born 27 March 1943) is an Irish missionary priest and the founder of the PREDA Foundation. He is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. He helped found PREDA in 1974 along with Alex Corpus Hermoso and Merly Ramirez (partially correct - original name was "Zambales Rehabilation Center (ZARECEN), Inc." [SIC] and was only concerned with rehabilitation of drug/alcohol abusers of any age. Preda Foundation and Fr. Shay Cullen were awarded the prestigious Human Rights Award from the City of Weimar, in Germany. Preda cooperates closely with international legal tribunals Interpol and the UN Commission on Human Rights. WIKIPEDIA.

“What are you willing to die for?”

It was a very challenging question that Pope Francis presented to the thousands of young people gathered for the beatification of the 130 martyrs in Korea last week. It is also challenging for all of us who claim to be Catholics and Christians. His message was clear in calling on the youth and people to reject a life of selfish gratification based on gross materialism and living for wealth alone and instead to strive for equality and protect the poor and their human rights.

The Pope visited a Catholic home for the elderly and embraced some of them showing compassion and love. In Korea, as in many wealthy nations, there are serious pockets of neglect of the elderly. Although Korea is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, half of the old folk there live in poverty. Instead of cherishing and respecting them all with a life of dignity and sufficiency, many of the senior citizens are marginalized and rejected as people of little value.

Many are locked away in retirement homes and some tied to beds and chairs and given tranquilizer drugs that leaves them in a state of semi-conscious stupor that accelerates dementia. New legislation in Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands allows them to be helped to kill themselves by “assisted suicide.” Where will this trend end? Soon the practice could be for nasty relatives and government caregivers to bully and persuade them to kill themselves and not go on being a financial and medical burden to the rest of us. This is an attitude arising from loveless selfish materialism.

The Pope reminded us that the early Catholics of Korea sacrificed themselves for their needy brothers and sisters. “They knew the price of discipleship and were willing to make the great sacrifices,” he said of them. The Pope pointed out that their love and courage and rejection of the strict unbending and unequal social structure of their day is an inspiration for people alive today. Their belief in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching of a Kingdom of love, equality and social justice led to their execution. The rich can’t stand talk of equality.

* Pope Francis’s compassion for the bereaved families of the hundreds of school children that drowned when the ferry boat sank off South Korea showed through also when he and the organizers of the Mass of Beatification did not allow the authorities to drive away the protestors, one on hunger strike, demanding the truth about the sinking of the ferry. The Pope had met them in private and now embraced them in public. Bishop Kang stated that “to forcibly move people crying for justice in order to celebrate Mass simply could not happen – if it did the Mass would have no meaning.”

When Pope Francis comes to visit the Philippines next January he will find many martyrs including priests and pastors, human rights workers who gave their lives for the poor and exploited and were executed by death squads run by military and local government officials.

One of the worst suspected and accused military generals, the darling of the previous government of President Gloria Arroyo who herself is in detention for plunder and awaiting trial, is Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. He was arrested recently after four years on the run from the charges of allegedly running death squads wherever he was assigned around the Philippines and allegedly left a trail of blood of assassinated civilians who dared to criticize the government. Known as “The Butcher” for these alleged crimes, he will be put on trial for the disappearance and suspected murder of two student activists.

Like the Korean martyrs we should be ready to give up some comforts of our easy life and defend the abused children and those poor people exploited by the rich one percent that owns 70 percent of the Philippines. We need the spiritual commitment and belief in what is right and good and be ready to put aside selfish desires and greed to help others in great need.

This is at the heart of the Pope’s message. When Francis comes to the Philippines.

I hope he will not be feted and manipulated by glory-seeking rich elites and publicity-seeking politicos. He will, we hope, visit the poor and the victims of abuse and survivors of the greatest typhoon.

He will see little reconstruction of homes, schools and public services.

Political corruption is still rife and raging wherever there is money to be stolen.

His message will be equally challenging for sure and we will do well to heed it and act in solidarity with those in great need wherever they may be.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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